African safari introduces travellers to new cuisine

Tours to explore the national parks and game preserves of Africa have become a source of income and pride for many people who live in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and other African nations.

The thrill of sitting in an open safari truck as a large male lion walks toward the vehicle and then leaps, only to cross a puddle of water at the side the road and then casually walk past the truck, can make the heart stop. It also provides a great photo opportunity and tale to tell back home.

The best way to observe the animals in their natural habitat is to go out before sunrise to be at the watering holes just at dawn, or later in the day just before dusk.

My brother Ron Pearson, his wife, Mary-Ellen, and their daughter, Jen, travelled to Africa in 2017. They experienced several safaris and an overland truck trip from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to Windhoek, Namibia.

Meal stops at roadside cafes are not an option when travelling across Africa on rough trails. Safari companies generally provide boxed breakfasts and lunches when out looking for animals and then return to the lodge for a later evening supper.

For a predawn drive to a watering hole to observe wildlife, individually packed breakfast boxes might consist of a hard-boiled egg, little cold sausages, a banana, yogurt, and an individually wrapped store-bought muffin and bottled water.

At some watering holes there may be other safari groups. Some may give a higher level of service by covering camp tables with linen tablecloths and serving the meal on china. This all while observing zebras, elephants, hippos and other wildlife coming for a morning drink and maybe a meal.

Mary-Ellen was amazed at how organized and efficient their cook on the overland trip was. Mama Tembe prepared three meals a day for 25 people using two two-burner propane stoves or a campfire.

One of the staple dishes served was what Mama Tembe called relish, basically a cabbage, onion and tomato stir-fry served warm over hamburger, smokies or rice. Any leftover meat was chopped and added to the relish to be served with rice the next meal.

Supper was often served as a late evening meal. It always included a green salad with tomatoes and cucumber or a coleslaw and a relish.

Chicken was frequently served fried or in a curry with rice. Other meals included stew, hamburgers, smokies, spaghetti and meat sauce, and steak and potatoes. There were no menu options: what was made was what you ate for that meal. Dessert was rarely offered.

At one meal, Mama Tembe shared pap, a traditional recipe from her Zimbabwe childhood. It is a type of porridge or bread made from coarsely ground white maize or corn meal. An inexpensive staple food eaten in most of Africa, it is similar to other ground corn recipes found around the world such as polenta or grits. In East Africa it is known as ugali.

In traditional villages, pap is cooked outside in a black cast-iron pot over an open fire and develops a smoky taste. Over the fire, the pap would cook faster than on an electric or gas stove.

Pap or Ugali

  • 3 c. water 750 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
  • 2 c. white corn meal 250 mL

Heat water in a large nonstick saucepan on medium heat. Add salt and butter as water begins to steam. Reduce heat to low when water comes to a rolling boil.

Slowly add all the corn meal, stirring with a wooden spoon to mix well and to avoid lumps. The mixture will form a stiff consistency.

Cover and let cook on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to cook evenly.

Dip a flat wooden spoon in cold water, scrape the pap onto a plate and shape into a round cake with the wooden spoon.

Serve warm as an accompaniment to stir-fried cabbage, eggs, curry, stew or grilled meats. Ideally white meal is used. If yellow corn meal is used, the pap will be yellow in colour. Source:

Tanzanian stir-fried cabbage or relish

Serve with pap as a meal or as a side dish with smoked sausage or curry and rice.

  • 2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil 30-45 mL
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste 45 mL
  • 1 tsp. turmeric or curry powder 5 mL
  • 1 cabbage, sliced thinly then chopped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced 5 mL

Place large frying pan on medium heat, add oil and heat until hot. Add onions and cook until onions begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, and cook two to three minutes.

Stir in tomato paste cook until beginning to brown; add extra oil if drying out.

Stir in turmeric and cabbage, turn to medium-low heat and steam cabbage, stirring continuously.

Add fresh lime juice and minced fresh ginger into the hot cabbage mixture and stir to combine.

Serve hot with rice, pap, meat or eggs. Source: Taste of Tanzania YouTube channel.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact:

About the author


Stories from our other publications